28 Apr 2021

More actvity on pond opposite house.

Every year the pond in fields opposite house fills and overflows creating a short lived wetland habitat. Every year the local farmer tries to chase the wildfowl off claiming they give his sheep worms. In reality sheep get worms through picking up the larvae when feeding in wet grass  and not off wildfowl. Sheep cough up the larvae that have hatched inside them and these larvae live in wet grass before getting ingested by another sheep and the lifecycle starts again. Funnily enough many of his sheep are also limping - a sign of foot rot which is also transmitted from sheep to sheep.

Despite his activities the pond attracts a small number of good local records annually. This year has been no exception. Its home to Great-crested Newts and attracts the local Heron when these amphibians come out of hibernation to breed.

This year, for the first time, we also had a Little Egret drop in for a couple of hours presumably on the look out for newts as well.  Although we've had them fly over the garden and seen them occasionally nearby this was the first to drop into the pond.

Another recent visitor that dropped in and stayed for short while was this Cormorant. Presumably it dropped in to check on the fishing as a check of the literature doesn't mention newts as a source of food for Cormorants.

A few years ago when the 'beast from the east' resulted in virtually the whole field being swamped a few good waders turned up including Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit & Curlew. This year it's attracted another Curlew and my 'first' Green Sandpiper.
Lapwings are regular spring visitors in small numbers but this year was exceptional with over 120 birds being counted at one stage.

Gadwall is another infrequent visitor with only one other record (albeit multiple birds). This year the pond attracted five birds of which one pair stayed almost a week.

 Virtually every morning the first thing I do before going down to make a mug of tea is check out the window to see what the pond has attracted over night.

18 Apr 2021

Reed Bunting on the garden ringing list!

Reed Buntings are pretty rare birds near me. Although we have ponds around us there is no vegetation as its always eaten by cattle or sheep.  They're normally a spring passage bird and although the occasional one may stop a couple of days they're normally 'fly overs'. Unusually we had one stay a couple of days just after Christmas feeding in a field of stubble along with good numbers of Linnets & Chaffinches. I saw it several times in the roadside hedge adjacent to the stubble and was hopeful it would stay until after January the 1st to get it on my 2021 patch year list. No chance.

We've never actually had one in the garden before so imagine my surprise when I caught and ringed a 2nd calendar year female Reed Bunting in the garden yesterday (12th April). It had no fat deposits and a low pectoral muscle score so presumably its not the December bird relocating and must have come from further afield.

I used to ring a lot of Reed Buntings in my early ringing days at Wicken Fen (Cambridgeshire) but rarely these days. They are a scarce spring passage migrant on Hilbre and I think the last one I ringed was there a few years ago.

8 Apr 2021

A long overdue trip to Hilbre

 With the easing of lockdown restrictions I'd hoped to get to Hilbre last week but a leaking radiator pipe beneath the floorboards upstairs at home and the need to wait in for a plumber put paid to that. However, I managed to get across yesterday for the tide. An early tide meant an early start and it was still dark at 05.45 when I drove off the ramp and onto the beach art West Kirby. The weather wasn't conducive to passerine migration with a strong NNW blowing and -2C  temperatures and the forecast of snow and hail flurries! 

It was still dark when I arrived at the Observatory and I had a brew before waiting for the dawn to start breaking before doing a tour of the island and the heligoland traps. Reaching the north end there were quite a few gulls feeding on the edge of the rising tide including a couple of Kittiwakes and three Little Gulls. I'd left my camera back at the Obs as it was still to dark to be able to photograph anything but I hurried back to get it to try and photograph the Little Gulls. By the time I returned they'd moved further out.

First glimmer of sunrise looking east towards West Kirby

View looking south from the air raid shelter 

The old Lifeboat station reflecting the rising sun at the north end

An adult Kittiwake seemed to be doing circuits of the island and was seen flying down the west side and then between Middle & Hilbre before flying back up the east side.
Unfortunately it was seen on the rocks below the east side cliffs as the tide receded and looked moribund.

It appeared that the strong northely winds had displaced quite a few seabirds and as the tide rose they started leaving the Dee estuary up the west side of Hilbre. Six Red-throated Divers (including three together), a number of Common Scoter, several Razorbill, a Guillemot and an adult Gannet were all watched heading out and into the wind.
Common Scoter

Red-throated Divers

As the tide fell a large party of Turnstones flew into the rocks at the north end and were joined by six Purple Sandpipers. One of the Turnstones was ringed on the right leg with what appears to be a BTO ring. As we haven't ringed any Turnstone for a number of years and we ring on the left leg, this is probably a bird ringed elsewhere in the UK.

Turnstone - lower picture shows metal ringed bird.

As usual the Purple Sandpipers were very photogenic and it won't be long before these, and the Turnstones, start departing for their Arctic breeding grounds.

Most of the resident passerines are beginning to think about the breeding season and a pair of Rock Pipits were displaying at the north end whilst a solitary Meadow Pipit was bravely doing its display flight and running the risk of getting blown off the island! 

Rock Pipit

Meanwhile the resident pair of Carrion Crows were seen breaking of branches from the few trees on the island to repair their nest.

A male Eider has been hanging around the island for awhile. With the first recorded breeding of this species confirmed last year there are hopes they'd do the same this year. I didn't see it around Hilbre but as the tide dropped it appeared on the rocks to the east of Middle Eye. 
Fantastic birds and at one time quite a rarity on the N Wirral coast.  Interestingly it appears to be in wing moult.

Despite the atrocious weather it was good to get out and although there weren't any spring migrants theres always something to see around Hilbre.